In the Torah the word "vayikra" is written with its last letter (aleph) in a smaller form than the rest of the letters in the word. This hints at a hidden wisdom relating to the Hebrew letters that forms the opening discourse in this week's portion in the Zohar.

Rebbe Elazar opened his discourse with the verse:
"Ask for yourself a sign of the Lord your G‑d; ask it either in the depths or in the heights above." (Isaiah 7:11).

In the verse above, the prophet Isaiah is asking the wicked King Achaz to test the truth of the prophecy he had told him by asking G‑d for a sign. In Hebrew, the word for 'wonder'…also means 'letter'…

In Hebrew, the word for "wonder" or "sign" is "ot". Significantly, the same word also means "letter". The Hebrew letters themselves are wonders. Their shape, form, size, spelling and numerology are all the subject of extensive commentary by the Sages. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph, also spells "peleh" that means "wonder".

I have looked into the previous generations [when the Temple stood] and in the latter generations [after the Destruction]. What was the difference between the earlier and later generations? The earlier generations knew [the ancient wisdom relating to the letters] and observed [in them] higher wisdom. They knew how to combine the letters that were given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Recombining the letters to form different words shows the connection between different concepts - exactly as our example of aleph above shows. They also knew how the way letters were combined in the words revealed divine guidance through the sefirot.

Even the sinners of Israel [like Achaz and his group] knew the divine wisdom relating to the letters.

The proof that even the wicked knew the hidden powers of the letters is that the prophet asks Achaz himself to choose a letter. It was understood that this meant choosing one of the letters from the four-letter name of G‑d: yud, hei, vav, hei.

They also knew the secret of the large letters [in the Torah, rooted in the sefira of bina] and the small letters [like the aleph in the first word of our parasha, vayikra]. The big letters… come from the sefira of bina

The big letters, such as the first letter, beit, of the first word of the Torah, "Bereishit", "in the beginning", show their higher status by their size. They come from the sefira of bina and are related to the divine intellect as it devolves. Thus the large beit shows that all is purposefully designed, flowing from its source in the unknowable, into the sefira of understanding.

The small letters hint at the sefira of malchut, the "female" aspect of the divine as it appears in this physical world. This was the level that called to Moses from the Tabernacle in the desert and from the Burning Bush. This represents an awesome contraction of the power of the infinite.

[With the insight to these letters they had the] wisdom to control and manage action in this [physical] world.

Not incidentally, the word "abracadabra" in Hebrew means, "I will create as I will speak" because the change of combinations of letters, like magic, can change reality.

Each and every letter that was passed to Moses [at the giving of the Torah] goes up to form crowns on the higher holy Chayot [enlivening angelic forces in the world of Yetzira]. Then all of the Chayot were crowned by them.

The higher holy Chayot consists of the four angels who form the Chariot for the sefira of bina in the world of Yetzira. These four, Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel and Michael, are known by their acrostic ARGaMan. They are the essence of the lower, non-intellectual sefirot that carry out activity. Michael represents chesed, Gabriel gevura, Raphael tiferet and Uriel malchut. Each is flanked by two angelic "helpers" making a total of 12 higher holy Chayot. After the giving of the Torah, they received their life force from its letters that devolved upon their "heads" or consciousness, activating them. They all fly up in that air, from that higher air,
subtle and unknowable…

They all fly up in that air [the yesod of malchut], from that higher air [chochma and bina], subtle and unknowable. They go up and come down.

Rooted in the sefira of bina, they fly up to receive instruction and vitality and return to empower the lower order of angels, ofanim, meaning literally "wheels", that cause events to happen in the physical world.

[And the two aspects of this] are the big letters [written twice the size of the ordinary letters in the Torah] and the small letters [written half the normal size]. The large letters come down from a supernal palace that is hidden from all [the yesod of bina] and the small letters come from another lower palace [the yesod of malchut]. The secrets of each were passed on to Moses at Mount Sinai.

The written Torah is the aspect of tiferet in Zeir Anpin. It has included in it large letters from bina and small letters from malchut as well as the ordinary sized letters.

And the connection of the letters is hidden within each and every letter [the filling/milui letters]; aleph, for example, a single letter, is joined in a hidden manner (i.e. when spelled out in full) by the letters lamed and pei. And so everything [about the Hebrew letters, like their number value and the ways they can be combined to describe concepts] were given over to Moses at Sinai.

The letters, when spelled out in full, reveal an array of new meanings, new numerical values, hints and connections, as well as being an important meditative tool.

All these secrets are hidden among the companions. Happy are they!

Zohar, parashat Vayikra, pg. 2a; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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